The Two Stories
As the video from “The Big Bang Theory” tells us, often the ideas of evolution and Creation are seen as either fact or fiction. In this argument, two stories, or books, are used to prove or disprove one or the other story. The first story is in the Bible, and the second is in a book authored by Charles Darwin entitled, “Origin of Species.” Let’s take a look at each one and see what the big deal might really be.
The first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1, tells the story of the world being created in six days. If, like Sheldon’s mom, you read this story and believe that Genesis 1 is like a fact sheet of how the world began, you would say that all of the types of animals and plants were created just as we see them today in a period of six days. This is called a “literalist” viewpoint. Some with this viewpoint might also believe that each day of creation is equal to 1000 years making the earth roughly 6000 years old. This is in opposition to the age of the earth estimated by scientists to be over 4 billion years old. Or they might agree that the first things were created, then later evolved, but did not evolve from the very beginning. These are just a few examples of how a person with a literalist viewpoint might read this story.
But there is also another creation story that follows in Genesis chapter 2 verse 4 that is very different. Instead of God creating things on a six-day schedule, Creation begins with a stream rising up from the earth and then man is created. So if the story in chapter one is true and tells of how the world is created, then is the second story false?
Sometimes stories contain facts that we can prove, other stories do not always have facts we can prove. People usually believe something that they can see happen with their own eyes, or told to them by someone they trust. When we hear and read stories, we can ask ourselves if there are facts we can prove or not. Sometimes it can be really hard to know if something is true when two people tell about what happened in different ways.
People tell and write stories for a reason. If you hear a story begin with the words, “Once Upon a Time,” you usually know that it is a fairy-tale, right? People tell fairy tales for reasons such as to explain how things happened, or to teach a lesson. If you read a story that begins with the words, “On this day in history,” you usually know that it is about an event that people believe to be true based on facts. People tell stories of history for reasons such as to teach about what happened in the past. But we have to remember that the person telling the fairy-tale or history lesson is each telling a story using their own way of thinking about things. Another person might tell or write each story in a different way. It helps to know who wrote the story, why they wrote it, and who they are telling the story to.
Let’s look at these two stories side-by-side to see if there are some clues to explain the reasons for two different stories:
As you read these two stories, you see that in Genesis 1, God starts with light, and then moves through each day creating the world and ending with making humans. In the second story God creates the earth, then man, creatures, and finally woman.
Why do you think these two stories are so different?
Well, different people wrote Bible stories in different times, and each writer had a reason or purpose for writing them. Each one uses different words to talk about how God created parts of the world.
People who have studied the early writings, or biblical scholars, tell us that more than one person wrote the book of Genesis. The person who wrote Genesis 1 is called a Priestly author and it was written about 400 or 500 years before Jesus was born. This author wrote this story at a time when the people of Israel had been taken captive and were living away from their home. In this story God is described as being all-powerful and creating from the beginning. The author wanted to tell people in this place and time about God as being in control of the world, even though the world at that time was in a lot of trouble.
Someone known as a Yahwist author wrote Genesis 2. This is from the word Yahweh, which is an ancient word for God. (Notice that God is referred to as “the Lord God” in this story.) This was actually written before Genesis 1 and before the people were taken captive. Things weren’t so bad for the people at this time. In this story God walks around, plants a garden, and even worries that Adam might be lonely. The author wants people to know that God chooses the people of Israel to be special.
Another influence for these stories are the myths that were common during the time of writing these stories. The myths told about gods battling to gain control over the chaos in the world. The stories of creation and also the story of Noah have these ideas retold in a new way with new authors for new reasons.
The authors of these stories knew nothing of the theory of evolution and they did not write these stories to prove that scientific understandings of the origin of the world are wrong.
You can also click on this link and go to the Old Testament tab and look up what others are saying about the book of Genesis. Search the home page of this site for the Old Testament, Genesis :
Origin of Species
In 1831 Charles Darwin joined an exploration on the ship called the HMS Beagle where he spent five years gathering specimens and studying different species as well as geology. His work on this trip helped him to shape the idea that living things change over time in order to survive. In 1859 he published this work in the first edition of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
The theory of evolution is just that, a theory. If you remember from science class, a theory is developed through a scientific method. Simply put, in this process we first ask a question about a problem to be solved, do research to find out more information or clues, make a guess or prediction about the answer, test our guess with an experiment, record the results and then see if the results match with our guess or prediction.
So far no one has proved the theory of evolution to be false. Pretty good theory wouldn’t you say?
So who was Charles Darwin, the author of this story? Read below to hear his personal story.
Darwin was a young man who was influenced by both the sciences and from his religious training for the Church of England. His discoveries led him to develop the idea that all living things are related and changed over time. He called this mechanism of change “natural selection” which means that individual or groups of living things that are better able to survive the conditions of the environment will continue to produce offspring that will also survive. These survivors then pass on these favored traits to future generations. Those that do not survive do not pass on unfavored traits to future generations.
This was a controversial idea for the people in the place and time where he lived. As his story tells us, the mystery of the diversity of all living things was understood through the literalist viewpoint, just like Sheldon’s mom. It was also against the ideas of natural history and the ideas that living things were created and stayed that way, or were “fixed.” For Darwin, his research proved his story of natural selection to be true and he had facts to prove it. Today people still argue whether his facts prove his theory or not.
This author, Darwin, did not write the “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” to talk specifically about religious issues. Darwin does tell us that, in his mind or view, his idea of things being descended from one another is a better explanation than living things being part of a special creation. But his purpose was not to argue for or against a Creator.
So now that we’ve looked more closely at the writers of Genesis and Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, we can see how neither one was written to prove or disprove the other viewpoint. So what is the big deal? Click on the next tab, or use the button below, and we will look at what causes people to make claims for one viewpoint over another.
 George Levine, 2004, xxiii. Introduction to Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. 1st ed. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics.